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Chicago bike share launch delayed

One of Divvy’s powder blue bikes. The launch of Chicago’s new bike share program is being delayed. (Flickr/Kevin Zolkiewicz)

The launch of Chicago’s new bike share program is being delayed by two weeks.

Divvy was supposed to open for business Friday, capping off Bike to Work Week. But a statement posted on the program’s Tumblr site on Tuesday afternoon said the launch was being pushed back “to ensure we have the necessary time to test stations and ensure the system is fully functioning.”

Beyond the testing, Scott Kubly, Managing Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation, said his agency wasn’t done building the 75 bike docking stations originally scheduled to come online with the launch.

A fastener used to connect bike holsters to the rest of the docking station arrived from a supplier only a few days ago.

Kubly called the components “minor but important,” and said that working without the parts in hand would have meant the majority of bike stations wouldn’t be finished in time.

“It would have been well below our goal of 50 [stations],” Kubly said. “It would have been in the teens at best.”

CDOT contracted with Portland, Oregon-based Public Bike Share Company to build Divvy’s infrastructure. PBSC works with a variety of subcontractors to manufacture its parts.

Kubly said his team will use the extra time to finish building the docking stations, and to test out each of the 950 bikes they hope to have available for the launch. Ultimately Divvy plans to have 300 stations with 3,000 bikes by the end of the summer, and an additional 100 stations and 1,000 bikes by next spring. Divvy is being launched in part with $22 million in federal funding.

Officials in Chicago have been closely monitoring the launch of another bike share program, New York’s Citi Bike, since it launched two weeks ago. According to the program’s blog, more than 36,000 people have signed up for annual memberships so far, and over 173,000 trips have been made. But the program has been beset by technical glitches, and some have complained that New York launched its bike share too hastily.

Both Chicago and New York are partnering with Montreal-based Alta to run their bike share programs.

So far 1,200 Chicagoans have signed up for Divvy annual memberships, which run $75 to $125. Users can purchase a daily pass for $7. Because the program was designed to help users make very short trips, and to address what some planners call the “last two miles” problem of commuting, trips are limited to 30 minutes. After that a usage fee kicks in.

Despite the delayed launch, CDOT officials are going ahead with a rally at Daley Plaza Friday to open Divvy’s first station.

“I signed up for a membership,” Kubly said. “And it’s not just because I’m managing the program.”

Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @rsamer.

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